Not only does alcohol provide empty calories, and destroy nutrients, it raises and lowers the sugar in your blood quite quickly, leaving you craving for carbohydrates. On top of this the alcohol itself clouds your judgement and removes your willpower.
‘Mocktails’ with elderberries, fresh mint and sparkling water would be a better choice. If you want a bit of a kick, try sparkling wine mixed with pomegranate juice, or warmed cherry juice with cinnamon and organic red wine as a healthier mulled wine. Antioxidants and fun – perfect!
The mix of sugar, fat, milk and the chemicals in the cocoa bean release endorphins which make us want to eat more. One of these chemicals found in chocolate is Theobromine that relaxes the smooth muscles in the linings of the lung. Another chemical is Tryptophan that produces a neurotransmitter called Serotonin. High levels of Serotonin can give you a feeling of elation or even ecstasy. The texture and the taste, coupled with these feel good chemicals make it hard for even the strongest willed to stop eating it!
The secret is to buy very dark chocolate which has the good antioxidants and chemicals but less sugar and fat which makes cravings lessen. One or two squares are enough for most people. I like 85% or 90% chocolate.
Takeaways such as Chinese or Indian are combined with just the right mix of sweet, sour and salt that appeal to our tastebuds, but are loaded with bad fats, elevated sugar and lots of salt. The calorie content is extremely high and they often contain MSG and other colours and preservatives that can give you a headache, palpitations or make you very dehydrated. Because typically Chinese and Indian food is served as lots of dishes, it is easy to get carried away.
The solution is to make yourself a stir fry with lots of beansprouts, peppers, broccoli and pak choi, or a healthy dahl with lots of lentils, turmeric, onions and garlic.
See how you feel an hour after eating a takeaway compared with a stir fry, and you won’t go back.
Biscuits are another food that are the right mix of sweet, salt (yes salt) and hydrogenised fat which hooks into those feel good chemical in our brains, and the crunchy texture and crumble is designed to make us eat more. It doesn’t take long to over-eat and before you know it you have consumed high amounts of fat and sugar that leave you feeling lethargic and full.
The healthier solution is to eat an apple if you want something sweet and crunchy. It doesn’t have quite the same appeal, but you’ll feel a million times better afterwards – not many people want to over-eat on apples!
Crisps and salted nuts
Who buys the small bags of crisps these days? And how easy is it to munch your way through a large bag whilst watching TV. The reason is that salt cravings are based on our need for sodium which is a trace element. Our basic need for salt can be so strong that mountain goats, for instance, are known to cling to sheer cliffs to access a salt lick. Add to that flavourings and they’re hard to put down.
Whilst it would be hard to eat a fraction of salt on its own, but combined with crunchy foods like crisps or nuts, we are able to eat much more, our craving for salt continuing all the way down the bag. Try eating unsalted crisps and you’ll find they soon lose their appeal. Not only that, crisps and roasted salted nuts are high in bad fats and calories.
I do however recommend snacking on natural unsalted nuts. Just take out a portion – around 6-8 small nuts or 5 bigger ones such as Brazils – and don’t go back for more! Nibble slowly and they will stave off hunger for a surprisingly long time. Not only that, they are rich in vitamin E, zinc, selenium, magnesium and fibre. You don’t have to crack your own… unless you really want to, life is a bit too short!